Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Long Leash

My husband and I recently adopted a two year old dog named Thor from the local shelter. He's a mix of Australian Cattle dog and a retriever of some sort. He has a sweet personality and a delight for life.

Early this morning I got to witness his delight very clearly. We started off for a walk early enough that there was not much traffic on my street. At first I kept him on a short leash teaching him the command of heel. He's obviously trainable and understood and followed my commands. After awhile, I decided to give him some length of his leash to see how he would use his freedom.
No surprise to me, he delighted in having more room to explore. He sniffed every inch we traveled. Sometimes he'd pause to more thoroughly enjoy, or perhaps to identify a particular scent. When our path crossed with that of another walker, he'd politely sit and wait to be petted. His ears would perk up becoming super alert when another dog was in the vicinity. It was almost as if he was wanting to create a new relationship.

As I watched Thor enjoy the freedom of exploring, I thought about the length of my own, self imposed leash. It's my intention to give myself plenty of length to sniff around and see what I may want to learn about and explore more deeply. I tend to live that way most of the time, although there are times when I shorten my leash staying within familiar territory. When on a short leash, I know what to expect, yet I don't grow as much, and it certainly isn't as much fun. A short leash may feel safe and secure, but I always have a longing for more.

So, today's lesson from Thor is to give myself some slack and to sniff around the areas of life that seem to be calling for my attention. After all, what's the worse thing that can happen? When a leash is long, it allows you to move in any direction, including the one from which you just came.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Triumph of the Hills

My husband and I set off on a hilly six mile walk early this morning. It's a beautiful day in Pennsylvania and was perfect for some vigorous exercise.

The first two miles of our trek were uneventful. No hills or uneven terrain to navigate. We hardly were aware we were exercising it was so easy. Soon after the two mile mark, however, we came to our first hill climb. As we shifted gears and got into the mindset of tackling the incline, I remembered my first running lesson many years ago.

I was trying to run a mile uphill without stopping to take a break. I remember my husband, an experienced marathoner, telling me to not focus on how far I had to go, but to keep my head down looking at the ground beneath my feet. In essence, he told me to focus on taking one step at a time and to imagine my footstep was actually pressing the ground out flat. This imagery had an amazing affect on my ability. While following his instruction my mind allowed my body to make that first hill climb without the usual suffering my thoughts of dread would create.

As I practiced this lesson this morning, I naturally transformed my physical experience into a metaphor for life. How easy it is to look ahead at how much work there is to do and how hard it will be to reach our goals. We set ourselves up for pain, suffering and difficulty. When we are so sure that our goals will not be easy to reach and that suffering is mandatory, our enjoyment of the process is also interrupted.

My desire is to hold the image of reaching the top of each hill I climb and experiencing that lovely feeling of triumph as I arrive, knowing that it was simply one step at a time that got me there.